Old Ray’s Mill in 1978

Ray’s Mill Founders Day, November 7, 1863
Ray City, Berrien County, GA

The gristmill at Beaverdam Creek commenced operation on November 7, 1863.  Then known as Knight & Ray’s Mill, the construction was a collaboration between Thomas M. Ray and his father-in-law, Levi J. Knight.

1978 photograph of Ray's Mill, Ray City, GA

1978 photograph of Ray’s Mill, Ray City, GA. Kids used roof of Ray’s Mill to slide into pond.

 

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Preacher Shaw and Susie Ray

Preacher Shaw and Susie Ray

Preacher Shaw, circa 1926. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw, circa 1926. Image courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Preacher Shaw was a son of Ray City, Georgia. He was a popular baseball player, sometimes politician, and salesman of Berrien County. His given name was Fondren Willie Mitchell Shaw, but at a young age he acquired the nickname “Preacher,” a moniker that stuck for life. As a boy, Preacher Shaw attended Pine Grove School and the Kings Chapel School, located just across the county line, in Lowndes County. His parents, Jesse Shelby “Dock” Shaw and Susie Bullard, had attended the same school in their youth.

From Bryan Shaw’s family newsletter comes the following:

 It was at the Kings Chapel school that Preacher Shaw met his life-long companion, Susie Ray, daughter of Charles M. Ray and Maggie Hutto Ray. She had finished her educational training by attending Georgia State Womans College [now Valdosta State University], and had been teaching at Pleasant Vale and Indian Camp  schools. She had just started teaching at Kings Chapel when she met young Preacher Shaw.  It is not clear if he was finishing his formal education of if he was attending a function there and made her acquaintance.

The only automobile that the couple had to court in was the rumble-seat coupe that belonged to Susie. But it was adequate and they were mar- ried on November 13, 1927 in the home of Susie’s parents by Elder Aaron Knight. The couple set up house for a brief time with Susie’s parents, where their first child, Latrelle was born July 14,1928. They shortly thereafter moved into the Martha Carter place just off of the Old Valdosta Highway near Barker Road. Here their second child Lawanna was born March 26, 1930. During this time, Preacher was farming the property of Susie’s parents. The family then moved into a small home on Indian Camp Road about a mile west of the Ray homeplace. It had been the old White Pond Church, which had been moved to the Ray property by Preacher and Susie’s brothers, Henry and Buck. By November the following year 1931, Preacher and Susie had moved over to the “Dock” Shaw place, helping on that farm. They lived in the log house that Preacher had been born in 25 years earlier. Their third child, a son Otis was born on November 16, 1931. Early the following year in 1932, Preacher suddenly suffered an attack of appendicitis, and was rushed to the Little Griffin Hospital in Valdosta. His recovery was slow, and Susie stayed at the home of Preacher’s sister, Cora Shaw Griffin. Susie visited Preacher daily while walking to the hospital and back carrying baby Otis.

Preacher worked the Ray property until about 1937, when he went down to Jacksonville, Florida to work for his brother-in-law, Lewis Ennis, Mary Idell’s husband. Lewis owned and  operated a service station and oil company in Avondale, Florida. Preacher would drive back and forth from Jacksonville to Ray City about once a month, while Susie worked the family farm. The children were attending the New Lois School about this time, walking the four mile distance each way, daily. One of their fondest childhood moments was when Preacher brought home a used girl’s bicycle from Jacksonville. With the birth of their fourth and last child, Gerald on April 5, 1938, Preacher found employment a little closer to home, working on a construction crew, building roads near Thomasville. However this opportunity turned into tragedy, when one of the construction tractors turned over on top of him. He was hospitalized in critical condition for sometime before finally recovering. He carried scars from that accident the rest of his life. All during the months and years that Preacher was working out of town, Susie was home, raising the children and working the farm. She was also an accomplished seamstress, sewing all of the children’s clothes. She was often sought after for seamstress work by many of her neighbors and her work was well known throughout the county. When Preacher recovered from the accident, he returned to work the farm, and the family moved in and lived with Susie’s widowed mother. About 1940 Mrs. Ray deeded the Ray homeplace and 100 acres of the farm in the 134th land lot to Susie.  Maggie Ray died August 2, 1942.

About 1945, Preacher went to work in Nashville for Jake Rutherford in the fertilizer business. This began a long venture in the feed, seed, and fertilizer business that lasted over two decades. He worked at the Leah Stallings Feed and Seed, Perkins Warehouse, and John David Luke at the Nashville Mills. He was a “drummer”, a natural-born salesman, selling seed and fertilizer, then traveling through out Berrien and the surrounding counties, buying back the farmers’ crops. Then he would sell them seed for the next crop year.

Reprint courtesy of Bryan Shaw.

Ida Sloan Ray Endorsed Doan’s Pills

In the age of patent medicines, ailments of all sorts were were attributed to poor health of various internal organs.  To the citizens of Wiregrass, GA and the rest of the world,  The manufacturers of Doan’s Pills declared the key to good heath was treating the kidneys:

     The headaches and dizzy feelings that trouble so many persons, are often but symptoms of kidney complaint.
      Kidney diseases are very treacherous. They come on. silently, gain ground rapidly, and cause thousands’ of deaths that could have been’ prevented by treatment in the beginning.  Nature gives early warnings of every disease. If you would but note and heed them. Backache, twinges of pain when stooping or lifting, headaches, faint spells and urinary disorders are among the first warnings of kidney trouble. If these signals are unheeded, there comes a steady, dull, heavy aching In the back and loins, a noticeable weakness and loss of flesh, rheumatic at tacks, weakening of the sight. Irregular heart action, languor,  attacks of gravel, irregular passages of the kidney secretions, sediment, painful, scalding sensation, dropsical bloating, etc.
      But there is no need to suffer long. Doan’s Kidney Pills cure all kidney troubles. This remedy has made a reputation for quick relief and lasting cures. It is a simple compound of pure roots and herbs that have a direct action, on the kidneys. It was given to the public by James Doan, a druggist, and is now known and recommended the whole world over.

Doan's Kidney Pills

Doan’s Kidney Pills

At the time, kidney function was poorly understood, and  renal diseases were lumped into a general condition called Bright’s disease.  Little science was employed in backing the claims of patent drug manufacturers. Instead, they relied upon the testimonials of local citizens to hawk their products.

One such testimonial was provided by Ida Sloan Ray, and between 1909 and 1911 newspaper readers  were apt to see her endorsement of Doan’s Kidney Pills published in The Waycross Journal.

Ida Sloan (1867 – 1930) was a daughter of Martha Susan Gordon and James Murray Sloan  , and sister of Dr. William Sloan.  At a very early age she came with her parents to Ray’s Mill, Berrien County, GA where she grew to womanhood.  She married James David Ray, son of  Ray’s Mill founder Thomas M. Ray, and  the couple made their home in various south Georgia towns.  The census of 1910 shows they were living in a rented home on Jane Street, Waycross, GA.

Waycross Journal, Aug. 26, 1910

Waycross Journal, Aug. 26, 1910

The Waycross Journal
August 26, 1910

HOUSEHOLD CARES

Tax the Women of Waycross the Same as Elsewhere

    Hard to attend to household duties with a constantly aching back.
    A woman should not have a bad back.
    And she wouldn’t if the kidneys were well.
    Doan’s Kidney Pills make well kidneys.
    Here is a Waycross woman who endorses this claim:
    Mrs. J. D. Ray, 33 Jane St.. Waycross, Ga.  My back ached so severely at times that I could not get about to attend to my housework.  It was almost impossible for me to get up or down stairs, as every move I made sent twinges through my body.  I could not rest well and as the result felt miserable during the day.  The kidney secretions were unnatural and proved that my kidneys were at fault.  The contents of one box of Doan’s Kidney Pills, procurred from Seals Pharmacy, gave me more relief and in a shorter time than anything I had previously used.  I am now free from backache and feel like a different person.  I have told several of my friends about the great benefit I have received from Doan’s Kidney Pills.”
    For sale by all dealers.  Price 50 cents.  Foster-Millburn Co., Buffalo, New York, sole agents for the United States.
    Remember the name – Doan’s
and take no other.

According to snippets of history published in company advertisements, in 1832 the formulation of Doan’s Pills “was the secret…of an old Quaker lady,” and “was kept a secret for years in a good old Quaker family.  The neighbors all knew about it and many a time had reason to be thankful for its existence.  Its fame spread and strangers who heard about it wrote for information concerning it, sometimes tried its virtues, and sometimes put a trial off for a more convenient season.”  “It was given to the public by James Doan, a druggist, and is now known and recommended the whole world over.” “James Doan was a great Doctor who lived in a town called Kingsville, in Canada, in North America. Sick people took journeys of many days to go to see him, and to get his medicine. He was a doctor who excelled in his neighborhood, because he prepard his medicine with his own hands, so he knew it was well prepared, and good.  He used to make it with shrubs, and roots, and herbs, which he gathered in the woods and veld near his home. He made many kinds of medicine; but the most excellent is that which is called Doan’s Backache Kidney Pills.” “To tell how it was dragged from an obscure country village and placed before the general public would be interesting reading, but lack of space compels us to withhold the particulars.”

Aunty Rogers, The Quakeress, inventor of Doan's Pills formula. 1907 ad from a New Zealand newspaper.

Aunty Rogers, The Quakeress, inventor of Doan’s Pills formula. 1907 ad from a New Zealand newspaper.

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Showdown in Allapaha

In previous posts Phil Ray, a descendant of Hiram Ray of Berrien County, has shared his research on the land deals and connections between the Ray and Bailey families that ultimately ended in death (see Burrell Hamilton Bailey Sells Out in 10th, The State vs Burrell Hamilton Bailey).

Here is the story  of  how Bradford Ray was gunned down by Burrell Hamilton Bailey on the streets of Alapaha, GA in 1873.

Bradford Ray was the son of  Hiram Ray and the husband of Martha J. Swan.  In 1872,  Bradford’s father, Hiram swapped his place near Cat Creek with Berrien county farmer Burrell Hamilton Bailey for another farm in the 1307 Georgia Militia District, Lowndes County.   When Hiram Ray moved his family to their new place, son Bradford Ray remained behind to work for Bailey as a tenant farmer. But in the summer of 1873 a dispute arose between Burrell Bailey and Bradford Ray over some family matter. On the 23 of June, 1873, while the two men were in the community of Alapaha, GA  the argument turned violent; Bailey shot Ray in the stomach. Bradford Ray lingered with the wound for two weeks before it proved fatal. Burrell H. Bailey was indicted for murder.

Albany News, July 4, 1873. Burrell Hamilton Bailey shoots Bradford Ray.

Albany News, July 4, 1873. Burrell Hamilton Bailey shoots Bradford Ray.

Albany News
July 4, 1873

Pistol Fighting at Allapaha.

ELEVEN SHOTS EXCHANGED
ONE MAN MORTALLY WOUNDED.

Allapaha, Ga., July 1st, 1873.
Editors Albany News: – Quite a serious difficulty occurred at this place (Allapaha, Berrien county,) on Saturday, 21st June, between Bradford Ray and Bill Bailey.  The following are the particulars:
   Some two or three months ago, threats were passed between Ray and Baily, in regard to some family matters, which were carried into effect at this place, as the following will show:
     The meeting of the parties here, I am informed, was a premeditated arrangement. – Soon after their arrival in town, Baily got considerably under the influence of liquor, and fuel was added to the already kindled flame – the long pent-up passions were soon to leap beyond their bounds.  But through the influence of friends, they were kept apart. Baily, with pistol in hand, walked away, telling Ray (who was then making desperate efforts to follow him) not to follow him, if he did that he would hurt him.  After Baily got away all became quiet, until about four o’clock in the evening, when the parties met again in front of Mr. Dormind’s store, where the fatal difficulty was renewed, with the addition of another party, James Brogden, who was very drunk.  Had it not been for Brogden, I am confident that the affair would have passed off without the loss of life.  He approached Ray with abusive language, which caused several blows to be passed between them.  Seeing that Brogden, who was very drunk, was getting the worst of it, he was parted from Ray several times, but could not be controlled.  While this was going on, words were passing between Ray and Baily, who were in ten feet of each other, and as they were about to get together, Daniel Turner came up and tried to quiet the fuss; but by this time the row became general.  Ray had his knife drawn, and Baily his pistol. – Baily told Ray that “if he approached him, he would shoot him.”  Daniel Turner spoke and said: (I did not learn what he said only from Baily after the fight was over)  “If you shoot Ray I will shoot you!”  As soon as these words were spoken, Baily fired at Ray – the ball entering the stomach – then turned upon Turner, fired the second shot, which was immediately returned.  Baily then fired the third shot at Ray, inflicting a painful wound in his left hip.  Ray was at this time retiring from the scene of action.  The balance of the shooting passed between Turner and Ray – fortunately neither was hit.
     The pistols being emptied, all became quiet, and attention was turned to Ray, who was considered mortally wounded.  Baily was arrested by a Bailiff and turned over to Sheriff Mathews, (who was absent from town at the time of the difficulty) and held in custody until Monday morning, when he gave bond;  but as Ray daily grew worse, Baily’s bondsmen became uneasy, and on Friday, 27th, he was lodged in Nashville jail to await his trial at the August Term of the Superior Court, for the murder of a fellow-being.
    Ray lived until Sunday morning, 1 o’clock, 29th ult., when the spirit of the unfortunate man passed away.  Thus were the hearts of two families made to mourn over an irreparable loss.

ALLAPAHA.

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The Ray’s Mill District

Georgia Militia Districts

Many census records, land records, genealogies and histories refer to historical locations in terms of militia districts. The districts defined areas of military and civil authority. Each district provided for the leadership and organization of a militia company, and also for one Notary Public and one Justice of the Peace.  An examination of the history and function of Georgia Militia Districts is provided by the Georgia Bar Journal.

Historically, the  counties of Georgia were divided into Georgia Militia Districts (GMD) for the purpose of organizing local militia companies to defend against Indian raids or other threats. With the formation of new counties in Wiregrass Georgia, new Militia Districts were organized as required by law.  Every able-bodied man between the ages of 15 and 50 who lived within the district was required to serve in the militia, and the company of men in each district elected a captain by whose name the district and company was known, e.g. Captain Knight’s District.  Although since 1804, all militia districts in Georgia were assigned a number, the practice of referring to the districts by the captain’s name persisted for quite some time. 

Here is a detail of Georgia Militia Districts showing the Ray’s Mill District, which includes Ray City, GA, and the surrounding districts. Considering the shape of the 1144th district, it is easy to understand why nearby citizens in the 1329 (Connell’s Mill), 1307 (Cat Creek), and 1300 districts considered themselves residents of Ray City.

Georgia Militia Districts, circa 1950

Georgia Militia Districts, circa 1950

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Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863

Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Ray’s Mill, came to the area in 1855 prior to the formation of Berrien County, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.

Gravemarker of Thomas Marcus Ray, founder of Rays Mill, GA.
Epitaph of Thomas Marcus Ray
The pains of death are past.
Labor and sorrow cease.
and Life’s long warfare closed at last.
His soul is found in peace.

Thomas Marcus Ray was born on September 20, 1822,  in the area of Georgia that would later be known as Griffin, Monroe County, GA.  His parents were Thomas and Mary Ray.  Little is known of his early life.

The 1850 census  shows at age 28 Thomas M. Ray was working as a mechanic in Twiggs County, GA.  He  married Mary Jane Albritton on March 3, 1852  in Houston County, GA. She was the daughter of Allen and Rebecca Albritton, and the sister of Matthew H. Albritton.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

Marriage Certificate of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton, March 3, 1852, Houston County, GA.

The newlyweds moved to the area of Lowndes County that was later cut into present day Berrien County, GA.  A little more than a year later, Mary Jane gave birth to a son, John William Allen Ray, on May 10, 1853.

Sadly, just six days later Mary Jane died and Thomas, a 31 year old widower,  was left to raise the infant on his own. Thomas buried Mary Jane in the cemetery at Union Primitive Baptist Church, which was the only church in the area. Union Church, now known as Burnt Church, is located on the Alapaha River in present day Lakeland, Lanier County, Georgia.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

Gravemarker of Mary Jane Albritton Ray, Union Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.

In 1853 this section of the state was only sparsely populated, and most of the settlers in the area gathered at least once a month at Union Church for services.  Thomas Ray was among those who attended.  It may be there that he met the 17 year old Mary Adelaide Knight.   She was the daughter of Levi J. Knight, a renowned Indian fighter and prominent planter in the area.  She was also the granddaughter of the Reverend William A. Knight, one of the founders of the Union Church and the first state senator elected to represent Lowndes County.  The following year, on August 22, 1854 Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight were married.

Thomas and Mary established their homestead on lot #516 in the 10th district of Lowndes County near Grand Bay, on land that Thomas purchased from his wife’s grandfather, William A. Knight, in 1855.  This land was soon to be cut into Berrien County in 1856 (and later into Lanier county).  Thomas’ father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, was instrumental in laying out the boundaries of the newly formed Berrien county.

On this land, the newlywed couple settled down to raise a family. In 1855, a daughter was born,  whom they named Mary Susan Ray. In 1858 a son was born to the couple, Thomas M. Ray, Jr.  and in the spring of 1860 Mary A. delivered another son, Charles F. Ray.

The Census of 1860 shows that Thomas M. Ray was clearly a wealthy man in his day.  On the census form his occupation  is listed as merchant.  At that time owned $2000 in real estate, and held $10,400 in personal estate. If he had a comparable net worth in 2007, he would certainly have been a multimillionaire.

The 1860 Census indicates that, in addition to the Ray children, two other youngsters were living with the Ray’s.  John T. Ray, Thomas Ray’s 15 year old nephew, lived with the family and attended school along with his cousins.  John T. Ray would be killed in a train wreck in 1888 (see Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.) A young girl  nine-year-old Efare Hayes (aka Ellifare Hayes), who was also living in the Ray household did not attend school.  Later census forms show that she was a domestic servant for the Rays. The census records show Ray’s neighbors were John Gaskins and Louie M. Young. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules show in that year Thomas M. Ray also was a slave owner, with one black female slave and one slave house enumerated.

Together, Thomas M. Ray and Mary Adelaide Knight had nine more children between 1855 and 1876, their last son being born in the year of Thomas’ death.

In the early 1860’s Thomas Ray partnered with his father-in law Levi J. Knight to build a grist mill and mill pond (now known as Ray’s Millpond) on Beaverdam Creek on land owned by L. J. Knight.  Mr. Knight would provide the land for the project, Mr. Ray would be mechanic and operator.    With the assistance of slave labor, the Ray family began the work to construct the earthen dam that would create an impoundment on Beaverdam Creek. In her later years, Mary Susan Ray, daughter of Thomas and Mary A. Ray, recalled that she helped build the dam when she was young child. ” Each day the family would load all equipment into the wagon, go over and work all day on the dam.”  In the age before power equipment the construction of the earthen dam that created the millpond was a massive undertaking. The dam is 1200 feet long with an average height of 12 feet, 12 feet wide at the top and 20 feet wide at the base.  It took approximately 10,800 tons of earth, dug and moved by human muscle to construct the dam.

It was while the dam was under construction that the initial hostilities of the Civil War broke out. On  April 12, 1861 at 4:30 a.m. Confederate  forces opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.  During the Civil War, Thomas Ray’s father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, and his future son-in-law Henry H. Knight both served in the 29th Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  Thomas himself, was a major in the 138th Battalion, 6th Military District, Lowndes, County, GA. There is no record that this unit saw active duty during the war.

Thomas M. Ray was apparently at his home near Grand Bay in the fall of 1861, for Mary delivered another daughter the following spring: Sarah Jane “Sallie” Ray was born May 23, 1862.  According to a history of the Wiregrass area published by the Coast Plain Area Planning & Development Commission, Thomas M. Ray began operation of the grist mill, known as “Knight and Ray’s Mill”  on November 7, 1863.

Ray's Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Ray’s Mill, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Thomas Ray was still at home in the late summer to early fall of 1864, for in the spring of 1865 James David Ray was born on April 30, 1865, just days after the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

After the war, in 1866 Thomas Ray bought land from his partner and father-in-law, Levi J. Knight, where the Rays constructed a new home and moved their family. This land was 225 acres of  lot #424 in the 10th district of Berrien County,  on the west side of Beaver Dam Creek right next to the grist mill.  Nearby were the homes of his mother- and father-in-law, Levi J. and Ann Knight, and his wife’s cousin Henry H. Knight.  To the west of the Ray farm was the property of William Gaskins.

Even after the Civil War ended slavery, cotton was the major agricultural concern in the south.  In 1869, Thomas Ray and William Roberts set up a mill for ginning and carding cotton on Beaverdam Creek downstream from Ray’s Mill.  From that point on the creek came to be known as both Beaverdam Creek and Card Creek.   The cotton mill was situated on land purchased from the estate of William Washington Knight, deceased brother-in-law of T. M. Ray.   (W.W. Knight died of disease during the Civil War; see The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll.)  The mill site included 30 acres on lot #452 and the right to impound water on lot #451, just east of #452. “This operation was apparently taking advantage of a small pond and dam already put in place by John Knight whose property it adjoined…” The dam site was on Beaverdam Creek about 20 yards just east of present day Pauline Street in Ray City, GA..

In early August of 1870 when the census was enumerated for the 1144th Georgia Militia District, the household of Thomas M. and Mary Ray  included  their children  William A.,  Mary  S., Thomas M. Jr., Charles F., Sarah J., James D., and one year old Elizabeth Texas Ray.  Also living with the family was Thomas Ray’s mother, Mary Ray, 78 years of age. Ellifare Hayes, the family maid was now a young woman of 19. Eight year old Ellin Jones  was an African-American domestic servant also living in the Ray household.  In 1870  Thomas M. Ray’s personal estate was valued at $5000 and his real estate at $2714.   His neighbors included  Robert A. Elliott and Annis Lastinger Elliott, and their children.  Robert A. Elliott was a mechanic and a hand at the wool mill. Another neighbor was Isaac J. Edmonsen.

General Levi J. Knight, long time friend, partner and father-in-law of Thomas Ray, died on  February 23, 1870 in the community where he lived (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  Afterwards, Thomas Ray bought out L. J. Knight’s interests  in the grist mill and the land, including water-flow rights, from the General’s estate.  Over time the mill became the focal point of a community which came to be known as Ray’s Mill, GA.

Willis Allen Ray was born in 1871, and Robert Jackson Ray in 1873.

The 1874 tax digest show that Thomas M. Ray was an employer; working for him was Andrew Wilkins, a Freedman and farmhand who lived near Rays Mill.

In 1874 when Mercer Association missionary Reverend J. D. Evans came to Ray’s Mill, Thomas M. Ray was deeply moved by the baptist’s message.  Thomas M. Ray must have attended the church meetings in the old log school house and the big revivals that were held in May and July, for he became instrumental in the formation of a Baptist Church at Ray’s Mill (see Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church.)  On September 20, 1874 a small group of followers met with Reverend J. D. Evans  at  the  home of Thomas and Mary Ray to organize the church.  Thomas M. Ray. and David  J. McGee were elected to represent the new church to the Mercer Baptist Association and were sent as messengers to the Valdosta Church. The Reverend J. D. Evans wrote a petitionary letter which they carried to the association. In November 1874 Thomas M. Ray was appointed to a church building committee along with James M. Baskin and D. J. McGee. He served on the committed that selected and procured the site for the construction of the church building. He continued to serve on the building committee until his death.

In 1876, Joseph Henry Ray was born.

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary Jane Albritton (1836 – 1853)

  1.  John William Allen Ray (1853 – 1934)

Children of Thomas Marcus Ray and Mary A Knight (1836 – 1923)

  1. Mary Susan Ray (1855 – 1926)
  2. Thomas Marcus Ray, Jr (1858 – 1923)
  3. Charles Floyd Ray (1860 –
  4. Sarah Jane (Sally) Ray (1862 – 1938)
  5. James David Ray (1865 – 1937)
  6. Elizabeth Texas Ray (1869 – 1952)
  7. Willis Allen Ray (1871 – 1901)
  8. Robert Jackson Ray (1873 – 1954)
  9. Joseph Henry Ray (1876 – 1907)

Thomas M. Ray died June 14, 1876.  His death was announced in The Valdosta Times:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, July 1, 1876
Thomas M. Ray

Maj. T.M. Ray, a prominent citizen of Berrien County, died last week, after a long spell of illness.

His lodge brothers in Butler Lodge No. 211 Free and Accepted Masons provided this tribute:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday Aug 26. 

     Tribute Of Respect , Butler Lodge No. 211 F.A.M.  Milltown, Ga., Aug. 12th, 1876. Whereas, it hath pleased the Grand Architect of the Universe, in His wise Providence, to remove from labor, in the lodge on earth, to refreshment (as we trust) in the Great Grand Lodge in Heaven, or brother Thomas M. Ray

Therefore be it

     Resolved, 1st. That, in his death Masonry has lost a worthy brother, the neighborhood an upright and honest citizen; his family a kind husband, and indulgent father and a good provider.

     Resolved, 2nd. That while we mourn his loss and miss his association, we bow with meek submission to the will of Him who doeth all things well.

     Resolved, 3rd. That we cherish his memory and recommend to the emulation of the Craft Iris virtues and the uprightness and integrity of his character.

     Resolved, 4th. That we extend to the family an relatives of our deceased brother our heartfelt sympathies, praying upon them the guidance and protection of our common Heavenly  Father.

     Resolved, 5th. That a blank page in our minute book be inscribed to his memory, and that a copy of this preamble and resolution be furnished the family of brother Ray, and a copy furnished the Berrien County News, for publication and the Valdosta Times requested to copy.

By order of Butler Lodge No. 211 F. &A.M.

Ogden H. Carroll, T.O. Norwood, Jesse Carroll,  Com.

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Charles Otis Ray Freed From Nazi POW Camp

Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996)

Charles Otis Ray was born June 5, 1922, a son of Charlie Lamar Ray and Leila Smith. As a young man, Charles O. Ray lived with his family near Ray City, GA in Georgia Militia District 1329.

Charles O. Ray enlisted in the Army on November 4, 1942 at Fort McPherson Atlanta, GA. His enlistment records show he was 22 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, weighed 138 pounds and was working as a farm hand in Berrien County.  He entered the services as a private.

On October 3, 1944 the War Department reported that Charles O. Ray was missing in action in Europe.  The Jan 13, 1945 edition of the Atlanta Constitution reported that PFC Charles O. Ray, son of Charlie L. Ray, of Ray City, was a prisoner of Germany.

On June 14, 1945 the Atlanta Constitution announced that PFC Ray had been liberated from a German POW camp, along with 41 other Georgians.  The following article appeared in The Valdosta Times

Charles Otis Ray, of Ray City, GA, liberated from a German Pow Camp.

Charles Otis Ray, of Ray City, GA, liberated from a German Pow Camp.

Charles O. Ray Freed From Nazi Prisoners Camp

     Charlie L. Ray, of Ray City, Ga., Route 1, received a V-mail letter this week from his son, Pfc. Charles O. Ray, stating that he is now a free man again, having been liberated after spending 11 months in a German prisoner of war camp.
     Telling of how happy he is to be free once more, Pfc. Ray wrote that he is expecting to return home in the near future.
His relatives and many friends were overjoyed to learn that he was among the many Allied prisoners of war liberated from the Nazis, and that he expects to return to the States soon.
     Pfc. Ray failed to give any details of his imprisonment, preferring to use the limited V-mail space to describe his happiness upon being released from the camp.

After the war, Charles O. Ray married Quilla Taylor.  They lived in Fitzgerald, GA where Charles worked in home construction as a carpenter.

Charles Otis Ray

Charles Otis Ray

Charles O. Ray died Feb 2, 1996  in Lowndes County, GA. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA.

Gravemarker of Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996), Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA

Gravemarker of Charles Otis Ray (1922-1996), Evergreen Cemetery, Fitzgerald, GA

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Texas Ray Goodman Entertains in Nashville, GA

Elizabeth Texas Ray was known all her life as “Texas.” She was born in Rays Mill, GA, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Ray.

On January 28, 1891 Texas Ray married Dr. William B. Goodman, of Nashville. The Goodman household was located on Jefferson Street, Nashville, GA.  In the Census of 1900, it was the very first Nashville household enumerated.

After her marriage, Texas Ray Goodman maintained her many friends and family connections in Ray’s Mill.  In the summer of 1899, the Tifton Gazette observed:

Tifton Gazette
Friday, July 28, 1899
Newsy Notes from Nashville

Several young ladies are visiting town. At Dr. Goodman’s, Misses Leila Knight, of Ray’s Mill, and Susie Dasher, of Sims; at Dr. Askew’s Misses Dora and Susan Williams, of Ty Ty, and Miss Monk of Worth County.

An entertainment was given by Mrs. Texas Goodman Tuesday evening last in honor of the visiting young ladies …

Later, after the death of her husband in 1912, Texas Goodman moved back to Ray City (formerly Rays Mill), GA where she lived with her adopted son, William F. Goodman, and her aged and widowed mother, Mary A. Ray.

Railroad Horror! 1888 Train wreck kills John T. Ray and 30-odd others.

The 1888 train wreck of the Savannah, Florida and Western at Hurricane Trestle near Blackshear, GA  was one of the worst in Georgia history.  The SF&W route ran from Savannah through Valdosta to Bainbridge, with connections to all points. The victims included citizens of Valdosta, GA and John T. Ray, who grew up in Ray’s Mill (nka Ray City), GA.   John T. Ray (1845-1888)  was raised by his uncle Thomas M. Ray, who founded Ray’s Mill along with his father-in-law General Levi J. Knight.

The Railroad Disaster to the West India Mail Near Blackshear, Georgia, an engraving from a photograph published in Harper's Weekly, March 1888.

The Railroad Disaster to the West India Mail Near Blackshear, Georgia, an engraving from a photograph published in Harper’s Weekly, March 1888.

The Hurricane Trestle railroad disaster was widely reported, with accounts and follow-ups appearing in newspapers all over the country from New York to Minnesota.  Transcribed here is an account that appeared in the Valdosta Times, Valdosta, GA:

The Valdosta Times
Saturday, March 24, 1888

Railroad Horror! Frightful Disaster On The Savannah, Florida And Western Railroad Near Blackshear.  Thirty-Odd Passengers Killed! Among Whom Are Some Of Our Colored Citizens. A Broken Axle Causes The Train To Plunge Through Hurricane Trestle.  Full Details Of The Disaster.

We are indebted to visitors to the wreck and to the Jacksonville Times Union for much of the information contained in the following. It was almost impossible to get specials from the scene of the catastrophe owning to the press of railroad work on the wires.

Blackshear, Ga., March 17.  The first section of the fast mail train going west was derailed before reaching Alabaha, one mile from Blackshear.  Upon reaching the trestle the entire train of five cars crashed through.  Twenty persons were killed and as many wounded.  The coaches are a total wreck. The entire community went to the rescue, caring for the dead and wounded. Superintendent Fleming with a large force is now on the spot.

Waycross, Ga.,  March 17.  Train No. 27, the first section of the fast mail came thundering along down the S.F. & W. railroad this morning at the rate of forty miles an hour, when it struck the trestle crossing at Alabaha Creek.  This trestle is fifty feet high and one hundred feet wide.  Engineer Welsh was in charge of the engine and Conductor W.L. Griffin in charge of the train. The engine and tender had nearly reached land on the Jacksonville side of the creek when the front axle of the baggage car breaking, the car left the track followed by others of the train, consisting of the private car of President Wilbur, of the Lehigh Valley road, Pullman car, first and second class coaches, and a baggage and mail car. The coupling between the tender and the baggage car broke loose and the engine reached the other side safely.

In the creek all was chaos and confusion.  The cars were piled on the top of each other,  and the cries of the frightened injured passengers arose from a caldron of death.  Nineteen dead bodies were taken from the wreck as soon as help could be organized.  There may be others yet to be found.

As soon as practical medical aid from Savannah, Jacksonville and Waycross, was secured, and several wrecking trains  soon reached the scene. The passengers were taken out and as far as possible removed to hotels in Waycross.  Hospitals were made of the hotels here,  and the good ladies of the town turned out en masse to attend upon the wounded  and dying.  Six wounded have died since reaching Waycross and it is suspected that others will die to-night. The bodies of eight colored men unidentified are at the depot awaiting identification.  Numerous surgical operations were performed, and at a late hour the patients had all been attended to and wanted for nothing.

Drs. Henry Bacon, Neal Mitchell, John Domingo Fernandez, and Charles J. Kenworthy, all of Jacksonville, FL were the first doctors to arrive at the 1888 train wreck at Hurricane Trestle,near Blackshear, GA

Drs. Henry Bacon, Neal Mitchell, John Domingo Fernandez, and Charles J. Kenworthy, all of Jacksonville, FL were among the doctors to arrive at the 1888 train wreck at Hurricane Trestle,near Blackshear, GA

The physicians who came up from Jacksonville were Drs. Neal Mitchell, J. Kenworthy, J.D. Fernandez and Henry Bacon, and they have done noble work in saving life and aleveing suffering.  They were on the ground before any of the Savannah physicians and have worked like heroes.

Your representative arrived here at 7:15 PM on the Montgomery train, and found the little city wild with excitement. Visiting the “Old School House” first I found there one dead body, that of Mrs. W.A. Shaw of Jacksonville, and eleven wounded persons.  The Grand Central Hotel was next visited and there were found four badly wounded. At the Commercial House there were seven wounded and two dead.  At the depot lay the corpses of eight colored men. At houses scattered through the town are numbers of other wounded.

The number of dead aggregates twenty-seven, about equally divided to color.  Seven of these have died at Waycross this afternoon.  Nineteen persons were killed outright at the wreck, and thirty-five were wounded. The list of those killed outright cannot be verified at this time, on account of the confusion going on at Waycross, to which place the ladies have been brought.  From passengers on the ill-fated train a partial list is made up.

Killed.

Mrs. Marion G. Shaw, of Jacksonville, wife of Captain W.A. Shaw
Miss Mamie Shaw, of Jacksonville, young daughter of the preceding. These two were instantly killed in the wreck.
M.A. Wilbur of South Bethlehem, Pa., son of the President of Lehigh Valley Railroad, who was on the train with his private car.
W.G. Geiger, of Savannah, drummer for Ware Bros. Aged 35.
W. Martin, a tourist of Cleveland Ohio.
Major J. H. Pate, Hawkinsville, Georgia. Aged 60.
John T. Ray and Daughter, of Dale’s Mills, Ga.
P.C. Smith, conductor of the Pullman Car.
Charles Fulton, Master of Transportation of the Brunswick and Western Railway.
W. M. Martin, Union News Company’s agent on the train.
Fred Meynard, of New York.
E.P. Thompson, of North Carolina.
W.H. McGriff, of Savannah, Ga.
Mrs. Kelly, residence unknown.
Cuffie Williams and Charlie Cason, both colored, of Valdosta, Ga.
Caesar Foster and Moses Gale, both colored, of Waycross, Ga.
Charlie Pierce, colored train hand.
One unknown white man, dark hair and brown moustache, supposed to be a minister.
One unknown young lady, white, with plain gold ring, inside which is engraved “P. to K., 1883.”
Also, two unknown negro men and two unknown white men.

Another Account. A Correspondent At Blackshear Describes The Awful Scene.
Special to the Times-Union. Blackshear, March 27.  The first section of fast mail train No. 27, for Jacksonville, leaving Savannah at 7 this morning, fell through the Hurricane Trestle, about a mile and a half east of Blackshear, at 9:30 this morning.  The entire train, consisting of a baggage car, smoker coach, the Pullman car Saxon and the private car Minerva, of President E.P. Wilbur, of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, went down, and all except the last named were totally wrecked. The engine broke loose from its tender and escaped, but the tender went with the cars.  The engine came on to Blackshear and gave the alarm.  All the stores closed and everybody went to the wreck and to the wants of the wounded and dying.

The trestle is about 300 feet long, where the train fell is about 25 feet high. Two thirds of the trestle fell with the cars, and of that standing there is nothing but the columns and the stringers. The cross ties are cut into splinters.

The train caught fire from the stoves, but the heroic presence of mind of Engineer Welsh, who leaped from his engine and put out the fire, prevented an awful cremation.

The accident is supposed to have been caused by a defective truck under the baggage car, and the mark of machinery dragging along the ties extends for several hundred yards beyond the train.

Doctors Smith, Moore, Whatley and Fuller, of Blackshear, were on hand shortly after the accident. Drs. Redding and Walker, of Waycross; Drs. Drawdy and Little, of Jessup, and Dr. William Duncan, of Savannah, were there soon after, and as rapidly as the wounded could be moved they together with the dead, were carried to Waycross.

President Wilbur was fearfully cut in the head and otherwise injured. He never lost consciousness, however, and when the doctors got through sewing up his wounds he dictated a telegram about the accident. His son R.H. Wilbur is badly hurt.

Among those who escaped were Mr. and Mrs. George J. Gould, New York.  Mrs. Gould was bruised some, but not badly.  They are now at the Brown House, in Blackshear.  They were going to Fernandina to meet his father, who is expected there in his yacht.

Blackshear, March 17.  Superintendent Avelihe, Train Dispatcher  Davis and other officials, have a large force of hands at work, but it will be several days before trains can pass. Arrangements have been made for trains to come arround by Brunswick over the E.T.V. & G. and the B & W. roads.

It is a singular coincidence that one year ago the same car of President Wilbur with almost the same party, was derailed near Blackshear. It is also remarkable that during the long years the the Savannah, Florida and Western Railway has been in existence, it has never until to-day killed a passenger.

The ladies of Blackshear did noble service. They were everywhere and many a poor sufferer died easier for their gentle caresses. They never tired but stayed on the ground until the last sufferer was moved. Superintendent Flemming expressed himself as especially grateful to them for their assistance and devotion.

The officials of the railroad were tireless in their efforts to relieve suffering, and all day long, and not until the last wounded one was gone did they turn their attention to the wreck.

A commendable feature of the community was that no discrimination was shown between the races in the efforts to rescue each from the debris and alleviate their suffering, but as fast as found kind hands took care of them.

Many touching scenes were witnessed and many instances of devotion strong in death transpired, as where husband refused to leave wife and wife refused to leave husband.  Newsman Martin saw others were hurt worse than himself, an refused assistance, but in a few minutes he was dead.  Major Pate said he was not hurt and fell back dead.

Mr. Ray, who was killed, was a prominent citizen of Blackshear. He was general manager and part owner of the Dale Saw Mills, near Jesup.  Fears have been entertained for Editor Ellenwood, of the Journal, and Mr. W. J. Balentine, who were expected  home on the ill-fated train.  They have not been found, however, and although unheard from the uneasiness is abated.

In addition to Mr. and Mrs. George J. Gould, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert B. King and Miss Alice Simpson, of New York, are in Blackshear. Miss Simpson is seriously hurt. All the others are in Waycross.

Undertaker Dixon, of Savannah, with about thirty coffins, has arrived and gone on to Waycross. He will take charge of the embalming.

Jno. T. Ray. Mr. Jno. T. Ray, who was killed, was a cousin of Mr. T. M. Ray of Valdosta.  He was a Berrien County boy and raised by the late T.M. Ray, of Ray’s Mill.  Just after the war he married Miss Wilkins the daughter of the late Rev. J.J. Wilkins, of Naylor, in this county, and moved down the road and engaged in railroading. He rose rapidly and then engaged in the saw milling business with J.J. Dale. At the time of his death he was a partner with Dale, Dixon & Co.

His little daughter Mattie, 8 years old, is not dead as at first reported. She has a broken thigh  and other injuries and will likely die.

Mr. T. M. Ray of Valdosta went down to his burial at Blackshear yesterday.

Our Local Dead.

Cuffy Williams and Charles Cason were both colored citizens of Valdosta. Cuffy’s remains were brought up Sunday morning and were buried this afternoon. A large concourse of sorrowing friends and relatives followed his remains to the burying ground.

There was some trouble in Charles Cason, and his relatives did not learn of his death until last night. His remains will likely come up today.

Mr. Charles Fulton, who was killed in the wreck, was recently appointed master of Transportation of the B. & W. He was well known in Valdosta. His aged parents, Mr. and Mrs Silas Fulton, lived many years in Valdosta. He was a brother to Mrs. Patterson of Valdosta.

Biographical Sketch of John T. Ray ~ Ray’s Mill Foundling

After being orphaned at age 6, John T. Ray (1845-1888)  was raised by his uncle Thomas M. Ray, first miller at Ray’s Mill (nka Ray City) in Berrien County, Georgia.  At 16,  he was a soldier in combat in the Civil War. At 25, he worked as an overseer for the railroad, and by age 33  he was a private contractor laying track.  A few years later he was a partner and general manager in the large sawmill concern Dale, Dixon & Co.

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John T. Ray married Sarah E. Wilkins, and by her had five children.  Sadly, their mother died at age 41.   John T. Ray remarried, but within two months was himself killed in a railroad disaster, leaving his orphaned children in the care of their new step-mother.

Grave marker of Sarah E. Wilkins and John T. Ray, Blackshear City Cemetery, Wayne County, GA

Grave marker of Sarah E. Wilkins and John T. Ray, Blackshear City Cemetery, Wayne County, GA

As the following biography portrays,  John T. Ray overcame adversity in his early life and went on to achieve success in business through hard work.  No doubt, he also benefitted from the social and political connections of his adopted family. His uncle was one of the prominent businessmen of Berrien County, and his adopted grandfather, General Levi J. Knight, was a renowned Indian fighter, military leader and state legislator.

Biographical Souvenir of the States of Georgia and Florida, Containing Biographical Sketches of the Representative Public, and many Early Settled Families in These States. F. A. Battey & Company, 1889]

John T. Ray (deceased) was born in Houston County, Ga, October 28, 1845.  His parents were James and Nancy (Lovett) Ray, both natives of Georgia. The father was a millwright and died in 1852, aged thirty-five years; the mother died in 1847, aged twenty-five.  These parents had two children — our subject and Fannie, now Mrs. Wesley Elmore, but whose first husband’s name was Leonard Dasher. This sketch was taken by the writer from the subject himself, at his home, Friday afternoon, February 24, 1888. It is, indeed, with sad heart and faltering hand that we to-day copy that sketch, and the sadness is greatly increased when we are compelled to record the death of one in the vigor of manhood, who had the surroundings of a pleasant, happy home, and the expectancy of a long and useful life. His death occurred Saturday, March 17, 1888, at the age of forty-two years, four months and nineteen days.  Mr. Ray was one of the victims in the accident on the S. F. & W. Railroad. The account as given by the Hawkinsville Dispatch is as follows: “The fast mail train No. 27, leaving Savannah at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning, went through the Hurricane trestle, one and one-half miles east of Blackshear, at half past nine o’clock that morning. The train, consisting of the baggage car and smoker, one coach, the Pullman sleeper, the private car of E. P. Wilbur, is a complete wreck. The accident was caused probably by a broken truck under the front end of the baggage car, causing the cars to leave the track and knock down the trestle. The only car not actually broken into splinters is that of Pres. Wilbur. As soon as the trestle began to go down, the engineer pulled open the throttle of his engine.  The coupling broke between the tender and the baggage car, and the engine bounded over safely, saving the lives of the engineer and his fireman. A gap three hundred feet long was torn out of the trestle, and the train fell about forty feet to the ground below.  Seventeen persons were killed in the crash, and over thirty others wounded, several of whom have died since from their injuries.  The citizens of Blackshear turned out en masse and rendered every assistance possible to the wounded.  Too much praise cannot be given them for their tireless work. The scenes at the wreck, with the groans of the dying and mangled and the silent bodies of the dead, is one never to be forgotten. From the best information we can gather Mr. Ray was instantly killed, but the particulars of his death we have not been able to gather any information.”

The following paragraph is contributed by a friend of the family:

“On the morning of the terrible Hurricane trestle disaster Mr. Ray left his happy wife and little ones to attend to some business in Blackshear, where he owned considerable property. As the writer of this stood in conversation with him but a short time before he boarded the ill-fated train, little did he dream that he was conversing with him for the last time in life. It was some four or five hours after the accident before the intelligence of his death reached us; it fell like a thunder-bolt in our midst. The grief of his heart-broken wife and little ones was heart-rendering indeed, and there was a settled gloom upon the entire community, for Mr. Ray was loved by all classes. Little groups of employees could be seen here and there earnestly discussing the news, many of them hoping, against hope, the intelligence was not true. But when, about dark, it was confirmed beyond a doubt, there was a general out-burst of grief. As many as could get there went to Blackshear the next day to attend his burial in the family burial ground in Blackshear. In his death the community in which he lived sustained a great loss. Honest and upright in all of his dealings, with his fellow-men, and a true friend; he carried with him to his last resting place the love and respect of all who knew him. At the time that the train went through the trestle, Mr. Ray was in the smoking car, having left his little daughter in another coach but a short time before, and was in conversation with the conductor of the train when the crash came. The conductor was not killed. Mr. Ray’s little daughter was seriously wounded and for some time her life was despaired of. She had her thigh broken, and, as it was badly set, it had to be re-broken after it had begun to knit, but she has almost entirely recovered from her injuries. His bereaved young wife has been true to her duties and untiring in her devotion to the little ones who were so unexpectedly left to her for counsel and guidance, and the sincere prayer of the writer of these lines is that God may bless her and help her in training them up aright.           A Friend.”

When a little over sixteen years of age, Mr. Ray enlisted (spring of 1862) in the Eighteenth Georgia battalion, and served until the close of the war. As a soldier, as well as a citizen, he had an enviable record. He never missed a roll-call except for three days, when he was indisposed from jaundice. He did not receive a wound in all that time. He took part in the siege of  Battery Wagner, on Morris Island, and his last battle was at Sailor’s Creek, but three days before the war closed (April 6, 1865); he was captured and carried to Point Lookout, where he remained three months as prisoner. He was released June 27, and arrived in Savannah July 5, 1865. His first business was shoveling on the railroad, which he continued three months, when he was promoted to second boss, which continued four years. The next three years he served as blacksmith and wheelwright; the next year he served as contractor for building a railroad for a saw-mill, then “woodsing” for a saw-mill. He then went into the saw-milling business with Capt. Grace, continued two years, and next located at Dale’s Mills and became a partner with “Dale, Dixon & Co.,” and was in that firm until death closed his labors. His life is an excellent illustration of what can be accomplished where there is will and determination. He began life without capital and with scarcely anything beyond an unlimited amount of energy and pluck, and from a poor boy he rose to an enviable position among the wealthy and respected of a large circle of acquaintances. His life is an epitome of what can be accomplished when honesty, industry and integrity are the principles that give direction.

John Ray was married first in 1866, to Miss Sarah E., daughter of John Wilkins, of Terrell County, Ga. Five children came to bless that union, viz: Charles M., Beula L., Joseph D., Mattie L. and Thomas D. Mrs. (Wilkins) Ray died in 1887, aged forty-one. Mr. Ray’s second marriage was to Miss Georgia I. Mingledorf, of Effingham County, Ga., January 15, 1888. Mr. Ray was a member in good standing of the Masonic order. Mrs. Ray is a member of the Methodist Church.

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